Keep music live’ - a familiar slogan throughout the years but, with bands struggling to make ends meet thanks to the advent of downloads and now streaming, there’s little option.
Which is why we’re here, chatting on the stairs at Dundee’s Beat Generator as punters stream into the venue for Stoor’s album launch. It’s like a meet and greet as the foursome welcome fans and friends - the same thing - for their hometown show.
The music business had changed when the quartet re-emerged from a 15 year ‘break’. “We'd not been playing live, just rehearsing - for a couple of years no-one saw us,” says guitarist Ross Matheson of the period between the late 1990s - when they released a couple of 7” singles - and 2012’s self-titled ‘debut’ album. “People didn't know we still existed.”
Somehow, the band found the impetus to get from rehearsal to recording studio. It may have been the core trio being joined by Davie Young, bringing a “rush of blood”. “I’d followed them, I’d been to their gigs, I’d have loved to play with them - I had a dream, and 25 years later it became true!” laughs the guitarist. “I can’t believe we've been in a band that long,” Stef says. "We've seen empires rise and fall and we're still there!”
With a catalogue of songs growing, it was time to commit these to a more permanent form. “We had all this stuff recorded, I said ‘some of it's really good, let's get it out there’,” recalls drummer Scott McKinlay.
“We always wanted an artefact,” agrees Steff. “I’m pretentious to say it's an expression - it's our art,” he laughs.
“We could have done downloads or even CDs," he continues, "but we wanted vinyl because that's what we'd wanted to do 25 years before. We were at the stage where we could put pocket money aside and finance an album.”
That DIY punk rock spirit carries through to the music. “Probably technical inability comes in,” laughs Scott. “We’re not great players,” he says modestly.
“We play what we play and sound like we do… there’s no agenda,” adds the drummer. Although lyrically they are … well, ‘political’? “They’re quite deep and heavy,” agrees Davie,” there’s no romance in them! We’re not that type of band.“
“There is an anger, an annoyance,” agrees lyricist Steff. “We’re brought up to believe in progress, but it seems people want to go backwards, the 1980s seem to be happening over again.”
However, that era at least acted as a source of inspiration. Andy from gig promoter Cool Cat Club has compiled a limited CD (distributed to early arrivals) drawn from the band’s own musical loves, like XTC, Magazine, the Kinks, Bowie...
“I’m a music lover, we all are, so this CD... every single song we all like, it could have been any of us that picked it,” says Scott.
"I don't sit around listening to those bands, but I remember then making such an impression on me,” Steff agrees. The inclusion of John Barry’s 'Persuaders' theme tune may also explain the band’s distinctive love of instrumentals - the new album containing ‘Stoor Theme’. “We played it at our first gig ever - 25 years ago,” Ross recalls.
But despite the band being visibly chuffed with the CD, vinyl is where their hearts lie.
“That’s the great thing about an album,” enthuses Steff. “Two sides played in order, the songs give it a bit of a narrative almost, a beginning and an ending.
“You know what it’s like with your favourite albums, you know what comes next - there’s that anticipation.”
“I pooh-pooed the invention of the CD,” interjects Davie.
Another bunch of punters come up the stairs to the show, with the same warm greetings exchanged.
“It’s like having loads of friends round to watch,” says Ross. Happily the venue is filing up nicely by now.
“I admire brave promoters,” Scott says.
And the band are hoping to find some around the country with shows being organised in Glasgow and hopefully elsewhere.
“We’d love more people to buy and come and see,” says Ross, “but it's not going to stop us if they don’t.”
“What else are we going to do?”